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Draft Horse Field Days a reminder of our farming heritage

Teamsters from across the region brought their horses in Rama to participate in a variety of farming activities without tractors.

Under sunny skies and near perfect harvest weather, the PALS (Performing Arts and Leisure Society) Draft Horse Field Days took place in Rama on Sept. 4 and 5. Organizers estimate there were approximately 75 spectators in attendance on both days.

PALS President Walter Hughes maintains that in some ways, this event becomes more important every year.

“To show people how their ancestors farmed,” emphasized Hughes. “I like to see young people get interested in heavy horses and learn from experienced drivers like we have here. A time will come soon, unfortunately, when all the experienced drivers will be gone, so it’s good to take advantage of their knowledge while we can.”

Hughes said he originally got interested in heavy horses as a youngster as he worked with his father Melvin and other experienced drivers, while his father was employed at the Western Development Museum.

Approximately 15 volunteers worked diligently to put on this year’s event in Rama. Hughes said he’s always happy to see first-timers get involved.

“We had a new teamster this weekend, Pat Uzelman, who brought a team of Clydesdales all the way from Unity. He said it’s about a six-hour drive.”

Other teamsters taking part in either one, or both days of the Draft Horse Field Days included:

Ron Turner of Archerwill (Percheron/Quarter Horse cross team), Kristina Just and daughter Jillian (Belgian team and Fjord team), Twylla Newton of Yorkton (Clydesdale team), Rod Abrahamson of Pelly (Percheron cross team), Cameron Last of Lintlaw (Clydesdale team), Lloyd Smith of Pelly (two Percheron teams), Glen Zulyniak of Yorkton (Percheron team) and Michelle Newton of Moosomin (Clydesdale team).

When asked why he likes working with heavy horses, Cameron Last was quick to reply, “I’ve always been a little horse crazy.” On his Lintlaw farm, he also has a stallion at home, and occasionally runs a three-horse team for farm jobs such as discing and cultivating, as well as sleigh rides in winter. Last said he thoroughly enjoys coming to Rama because, “I’m always learning valuable lessons from other drivers.”

Ron Turner said he appreciates the flexibility of his Percheron/Quarter Horse cross team. “They’re the ideal dual purpose cross; great for riding and for driving. Since they’re a little smaller than other heavy horses, they’re also a bit easier to work with.” Turner said he has been driving horses since he was nine or 10 years old, and in recent years has fed up to 100 cows with them on his farm, as well as giving sleigh rides in winter.

Glen Zulyniak of Yorkton jumped at the opportunity to participate in Rama, including doing some mowing with a five-foot Cockshutt horse-drawn mower. “My interest in heavy horses started about 55 years ago,” shared Zulyniak. “I remember cutting hay with my dad, Mike, and we also did some threshing.” Zulyniak keeps his horse in shape with sleigh rides in winter and also enters chore team competitions which test the skills of drivers and horses alike.

Kristian Just attended Rama with her daughter Jillian, both experienced drivers. But they were happy to give Jeff Pinder of Okla the opportunity to get some driving experience with their Fjord (Norwegian) horses on the dump rake. Pinder, a young heavy horse enthusiast, is hoping to save up enough money to buy his own team and bring them to Rama some day. Kristina said there is plenty to enjoy when working with the Fjord horse.

“I like them because they have lots of personality. If they like you, they’ll do just about anything for you, and they are versatile workers. Fjords are only about 1,100 to 1,200 pounds each, significantly smaller than the heavy horse breeds, which makes them easier to harness.”

The Just family has been attending Rama for a number of years, and appreciates that PALS has a variety of horse-drawn equipment in good working condition. “Horses can get some good experience here,” said Kristina. “There’s a real spirit of fellowship here between the drivers and it’s pretty easy to pick up driving tips.”

A chore team competition was held on both days. Drivers guided their teams through a course around markers, pulling a wagon, and backing up to a second wagon. Competitors were penalized if they drove over a marker.

On Saturday, first place went to Lloyd Smith of Pelly, followed by Rod Abrahamson, also of Pelly, in second. Pat Uzelman of Unity placed third.

Sunday’s competition saw Ron Turner of Archerwill finishing on top. Kristina Just of Yorkton came in second, followed by her daughter Jillian in third place.

For many, the highlight of the weekend was the threshing demonstration on Sunday. Anyone who didn’t mind the dusty conditions could take their turns pitching sheaves of oats into the 1940 McCormick Deering threshing machine owned by Walter Hughes, which has a 28-inch cylinder and a 46-inch separator. For the demonstration, the thresher was driven by a 44 Massey Harris tractor owned by PALS.

Ron Mocyk of Rama, one of the volunteers who put on the weekend’s events, worked on the threshing machine for about two weeks to get it into operating condition. “I had to fix bearings, straw walkers, belts, and the feeder chain,” explained Mocyk. “I could buy chain parts, but for things like straw walkers I had to make what I needed.”

It appeared that Mocyk did an excellent job, since there were no breakdowns during the threshing demonstration.

“A lot of people have never seen threshing,” he said. “When they come here they’re just amazed that harvesting used to be done like this with all the work- binding, stooking, hauling stooks, and then threshing.”

The oats threshed was grown on PALS grounds in Rama, and cut and stooked with their seven-foot John Deere binder.

Sunday’s lineup of events included Cowboy Church.

Volunteers made sure everyone was “fed and watered” throughout the weekend, with pancake breakfasts and concession service on both days, and a Saturday evening banquet.

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